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Rise in students with failing grades at Darlington

DARLINGTON – Due to the coronavirus that has schools establishing virtual learning throughout the area, Darlington Community School District’s Board of Education discussed the issue of an increase of students with failing grades.

At their meeting on Jan. 4, board members heard that 95 high school students at DHS have received either Ds or Fs in 266 classes. That is an increase over the 2019-2020 school year of 41 students in 72 classes and the 2018-2019 school year of 54 students in 84 classes.

In the DEMS building, principal Lori Nordorft stated that during the end of the first semester, 25 students had Ds and Fs in academic classes in the 5-8 grades and 38 students were failing and allied arts class. In 2019, there were only 19 students in the first quarter at received Ds and Fs with no students failing any allied arts classes. She added that during the second quarter the students have been doing better

District Administrator Cale Jackson stated that he met with several high school teachers before Christmas and created a list of a few students that they felt would benefit from coming in person all four days instead of the participating in the hybrid model starting Monday, Jan. 11.

“We can’t bring back too many due to social distancing,” Jackson informed.

Jackson also addressed the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing results, which he felt were encouraging. In both math and reading, the students’ results showed growth and progress in both areas.

Nordorft added that she saw the same results in the MAP testing in the DEMS building.

Board member Colleen Reichling asked about the students that would not be coming back in person for the four days. Jackson stated that teachers and specialists have been doing everything they can to help those students.

Teresa Siegenthaler asked about the option of referring any of those students not participating in classes to truancy.

High school principal Aaron Lancaster commented that towards the end of the first quarter, he refereed 10-12 kids for pre-truancy. Some of those students met with Court Services Director Kris Fleming to go over the rules of truancy. For those students who did not show up, they were not offered a second chance.

“It’s a good idea. Once they have to shell out money, it gets their attention,” Siegenthaler said.

“We will really have to look at the ordinance and issue tickets and see where we go from there,” Lancaster continued. “The number one problem is a lot of students that if they are not in the building, they aren’t doing anything. We are talking about jeopardy of not graduating some seniors and possible juniors.”

Lancaster added that it has to be a team effort from not only the teachers and district but also the student and parents as well.

Nick Zuberbuhler asked if any athletes were having issues. Lancaster stated that one student has become ineligible. Once a student athlete gets a failing grade, they have one week to get that grade up or they will be ineligible.

“The issue we have is students that don’t have extra curricular activities or maybe no support system at home,” Lancaster said.

Jackson said they would need to work with the judge to get a definitive definition on truancy.

“It is about physically being where you are suppose to be or not suppose to be,” Jackson explained. “When we do it virtually, we are telling them they have to be in their house and they are there but not doing work. Can we say that the place we want you to be is logged in for virtual learning or is it similar to being in school but refusing to do the work.”

Reichling felt the top priority is educating the students and getting them a diploma.

“We need to tweak getting them into the classroom and try to get those students what they need. If those students with good grades can handle being virtual for a few weeks so we can get the students with Ds and Fs physically in the classroom, that might be it,” Reichling said.

Board member Matt Crist agreed with Reichling.

Crist said, “If we need to bring 30 or 40 students in and still do it reasonably with the pandemic, that is what we need to be doing. If we are up to 95 with Ds and Fs, thats double a year ago. I think we need to do more to get them in the building otherwise we will have a serious problem in a year or two. They will not catch up next year. I think you should do more research to get more students in here. They will never catch up if we don’t help them now.”

Board president Aaron Wolfe asked if there was any discriminatory issue with asking those students with failing grades to come in person.

Nordorft brought up the issue of the parents maybe not wanting the students to be in person.

“If the family says no, they say no,” Crist said, “but I find it hard to believe that a large number are actually going to say no. They can still say no. My concern is we are going to have 10 to 15 seniors not making the grades. As long as we as a school board are doing all we can, that is what I am after.”

No action was taken.

Other business

The board of education at Darlington Community School District also approved/accepted:

-an anonymous donation of $2,000 to the district in memory of Monsignor Michael Burke.

-the hiring of Quarles and Brady, LLP to facilitate the referendum process.

-the resolution authorizing the school district budget to exceed the revenue limit by $1,900,000 per year for five years for non-recurring purposes.

-the resolution providing for a referendum election on the question of the approval of a resolution authorizing the school district budget to exceed the revenue limit by $1,900,000 per year for five years for non-recurring purposes.